Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 78 Issue 3 (September 2005), Pages 275-417

Working in the transference: Clinical and research perspectives (pages 275-295)

The aim of this paper is to address a matter that has been noted, but not adequately confronted, in the psychotherapy research literature – that different psychoanalytic psychotherapists mean very different things by the expression transference interpretations. We explore the matter in three ways: firstly, by providing a brief overview of clinical perspectives on transference interpretations; secondly, by looking at examples of transference interpretations provided by researchers who have studied this form of clinical intervention; and thirdly, by reporting an empirical study of the quality, frequency, and distribution of transference interpretations employed by a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in the course of three routine psychodynamic assessment interviews in the National Health Service (NHS). We emphasize that the meaning of a clinical concept such as transference interpretation is grounded in a set of therapeutic principles and practices that are difficult to characterize by means of a succinct definition. It follows that we should be circumspect about generalizing from research on the therapeutic effectiveness of transference interpretations when what is meant may differ widely from study to study.

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